How to Care for Your Western Hognose Snake
Hognose snakes are very distinctive snakes, with their upturned nose. This aids digging in the soil in the search for the frogs and toads which are their natural prey. In captivity they readily accept frozen rodents. They are also mildly venomous, with the fangs at the rear of their mouth, but are not considered to pose any danger to humans. They have short stocky bodies, a 2ft long hognose can be as bulky as an adult Corn Snake. Females are larger than the males, growing to around 75cm (30″) while the males rarely exceed 50cm (20″.)
Hognoses are lovely calm snakes, although hatchlings can be hissy but settle quickly when handled. They are active during the day
We recommend a wooden vivarium for a Hognose as they are better insulated than glass or plastic tanks, allowing you to keep them at the correct temperature more easily. They are also designed with snakes in mind so escapees are unlikely (Remember to shut the doors properly!). A wooden vivarium will also offer more privacy for the snake.
As with all snakes, a baby can go directly into an adult sized enclosure provided that there are plenty of hides. A good rule of thumb is that is the snake can cross from one side of the vivarium to the other without showing itself, you have enough hides! Despite their small adult size, Western Hognose snakes benefit from a 36″/90cm length vivarium, although bigger is always better.
Reptiles cannot produce their own body heat, so it is important to keep them within a suitable temperature range to help the body function correctly.
Hognose snakes require a temperature gradient of 25°C to 30°C (77°F to 86°F) during the day. This can be achieved by using a heat mat (stuck on to the wall of the vivarium) and a basking light mounted at one side of the vivarium to create a warmer end of the vivarium. These should both be controlled by thermostats. At night the temperature should drop to around 20°C to 25°C (68°F to 77°F).
It is very important to know what the temperature is, so check regularly with an accurate digital thermometer.
A simple 12 hour light cycle is ideal for Hognose snakes.
UV lighting is not necessary for snakes, although some specialists believe it can be beneficial and really shows off the snakes colours.
It is important to provide your snake with fresh water every day.
Hides and Décor
The snake will require quite a few hides in the vivarium so that it can feel secure. By having 2 or 3 in different areas, the snake will be able to choose the one at the best temperature
Plastic plants are also good to use, as these look very attractive in the vivarium as well as offering privacy. Real plants however are a poor choice, as the heat will kill them very quickly and the snakes will often dig them out if their pots.
Feed your snake one defrosted mouse weekly. The mouse should be no bigger than the largest part of the snake. Hognose snakes can eat mice their entire lives – starting off with pinkies as a hatchling and moving up in size as the animal grows.
As snakes do not use energy to warm their bodies (as mammals do) they need less energy to function. Resist the urge to feed your snake more often or oversized prey as this can lead to the snake growing too fast, which can result in the head of the snake not growing at the same speed as the rest of the body. Obesity can also be a problem. If a snake is overfed they have no reason to move around their vivarium and this is detrimental to their health.
The simplest feeding technique is to place the defrosted food in the vivarium near the snake and leave it to feed. The other way is to offer the food on some tongs or tweezers to the snake; they will often strike very quickly then constrict the mouse.
Snakes sometimes refuse to feed while shedding.
Spot-clean your snake’s enclosure as necessary, removing waste as soon as possible. Clean and disinfect the water bowl on a weekly basis. Monthly or more frequently if necessary, change the substrate and completely disinfect the vivarium and decor using a safe reptile disinfectant. Rinse the enclosure thoroughly and allow to dry before replacing the cage decorations.
Snakes regularly shed their skin as they grow, it normally comes off in one piece and no assistance is required.
The first stage in the process is when the eyes go opaque (cloudy) at this point the snake will not want to feed and will hide away, it is best to leave it to do so. After a few days the eyes will clear again but it won’t shed for another 7 to 10 days.
If the snake has trouble removing the skin it is best to put the snake in a tub with some damp moss to help soften the skin and help by gently rubbing.
Hognose Snakes have a lot of character and are great fun to keep. They are easy to maintain and colour morphs are starting to become available!